Saturday, January 16, 2010

DIY Robot / Space Themed Birthday Party!

Just in case there's anyone out there interested in throwing a robot/space-themed birthday party, or just trying to make some of your own party treats and games rather than buying them from a store, I thought I'd share what I did most recently for my son's birthday.

My little boy's birthday falls the day after Christmas, so I started preparing for it several months early this year for a couple reasons. #1, I want to make sure his birthdays are always extra special and not lost in the holiday shuffle. #2, as most people do, I have plenty going on during the month of December to prepare for Christmas, and would prefer to avoid adding any more stress by getting anything done early that I can!

This year we did a robot/space themed party, playing along with the robot/space themed bedroom we just created for him.

Back in the fall when I had a slow day of design work, I started building his pinata, which is something you can easily do ahead of time. I thought I'd try making one of those streamer ones, where the kids take turns pulling a ribbon until someone pulls the one that opens the hidden door. (Being too cold to swing at a pinata in the front yard in Minnesota in December, I thought it would be a better indoor version than giving blindfolded toddlers hopped up on sugar free license to swing a baseball bat in our living room.) Here are some photos and a few notes on how I did it...(click the image for a larger view)

A - Built the body out of old cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, & masking tape.
B - Close-up of a toilet paper tube arm
C - Cut 3 sides of a door in the bottom, and a notch for the winning ribbon to tie.
D - The ribbon that will open the door, tied to the flap
E - Reinforced the strip of cardboard with a paperclip on the inside so it wouldn't rip. I also put a wire loop through the top to hang it with.

F - Cook up some flour and water to form a thick paper mache paste.
G - Dip strips of newspaper or junk mail in paper mache and wipe off excess.
H - Cover the pinata with paper mache.
(here's where you may want to skip to "K." I did that step last because I wanted to wait until closer to the party to keep the candy fresh before sealing it up.)

I - Spray paint the whole thing with silver paint.
J - Decorate away! I used acrylic paints, giant google eyes, and glued on some fake gems as buttons. Have fun personalizing it with your child's name, birth date, or birth statistics.
K - Fill with candy and seal it up. It makes more sense to do this earlier but I waited until closer to the party. I taped more ribbons all over the bottom, then put one thin layer of paper mache around the door, and painted the bottom gray so you couldn't tell which ribbon was the one attached to the door.

Here it is in use:

I didn't really have a good place to hang it in the house so I just used a wooden dowel that I had in my studio and had my husband and brother hold it up while the kids pulled the ribbons. It just so happened that the door-opening ribbon was the LAST one pulled at the party! Unfortunately the ribbon itself snapped so the door needed a little help from Daddy's fist to open, so I'd recommend making sure you have strong stuff! It was still a fun activity for the kids, they all got treats, and the pinata is sitting in my son's room as added robot themed decor! (he lovingly calls it his "sucker beebot")

Okay, I get that I'm an artist and designer, and that these may not be so easy for just anyone to make, but I thought I'd share regardless. I had a lot of fun working on his invitations. We had a very small guest list so I only had to make a few of these. I used some old scrap mat board from some old college project that I had in my studio for the main robot body and arms, and added the "ears," mouth, wheels and hands with scrap construction paper. The only items I bought for these invitations were:
1) a sheet of round, sparkly circle stickers for eyes
2) brads that look like screw heads
3) some stick-on jewels for buttons

the middle part I did on the computer with my design software. Since the few people we invited knew where we lived, I had fun making a map to the party that just points out the Milky Way galaxy and an arrow pointing to earth. ;-)

Making these made me think that this would be a fun craft project for older kids to do during a robot themed party. Give them some scrap materials to glue together their own can recycle sparkly gift wrap and tin foil for shiny things, or even give them a tin can as a body to make their own 3D robot to take home!

I thought I'd try my hand at some candy sucker molds, as I was able to find a couple robot molds online (here and here) for just $1.99 each. I used some Michael's coupons to get the colored candy to melt and saved some money. This was the first time I've done these so it was a little time consuming, but a fun project to do one night after my little guy went to bed. And, like I said, with the small guest list I didn't need many. I would recommend getting more than one mold, so that you can do many at one time.

I had a little plate of robot chocolate suckers out at the party and they were a hit with the kids and adults. I'm no expert at doing these candy molds though so if you can find some resources to make things easier, go for it!

For other special treats, I found some astronaut "space food sticks" online that we had out on the table and in the kids' goodie bags. In the fall Target happened to have robot plates, napkins, and lunch bags in their little bargain bins when you walk in the door, so I stocked up on those early on. The lunch bags worked great as goodie bags to hold the kids' pinata winnings and other items. Later they had little wooden rocket ships too so I was able to compile some fun goodies for the kids to take home. It pays to start looking early if you have a theme in mind!!


The cake was also time consuming yet fun...I've never really done a sculpted cake so it was a challenge! I had the house to myself for several hours before the party and utilized that time to assemble and frost the cake. A few days earlier I baked the actual cake (just from a boxed mix), some cupcakes, a round cake and a square cake, and put them in our gigantic walk-in freezer that we also call the gazebo in the back yard. (remember, we're in Minnesota in December here) That way I could have that part done ahead, plus it makes it easier to frost the cake without crumbling it if it's frozen.

You can see above that I made a robot shape using a rectangular cake, round cake, and cupcakes, "gluing" the pieces together with frosting. The square middle is just the rectangular cake cut in half and stacked on itself, and the half-round head is the round cake cut in half. The rest of the details are made up of cupcakes. The fun thing with robots is anything goes so don't worry about getting any specific shape...just have fun with it! I was excited to find black food coloring in the grocery store to make gray frosting with. I just got a few cans of cream cheese frosting and colored it gray. The rest of the details are squeezed on with icing tubes.

In the lower right photo you can see I just put it on a tin foil-covered piece of cardboard. I figured, robots are metal, so tin foil is fine to show on the table...I took a sharpie and drew circles with "X's" in them around the edges like screw heads. Then I made my own table confetti by cutting some moon and star shapes out of some used, holographic/sparkly wrapping paper. No need to go buy expensive table decor!

So, that's what we did for the big 2nd birthday! Not sure if I'll be able to top it next year but I sure had a blast coming up with ideas for this party! My next child is due to arrive in a week so I'm hoping I'll have enough energy and creative ideas to go around for future birthdays to long as I do I'll try to share them here with you! Happy party planning! :-)

Previous birthday/party related posts:
• Recycling mylar balloons
Green kids' birthday parties
Make your own gift bags

1 comment:

Shannon (Coupon Mommy Of 2 ... Now 3) said...

What a neat little blog you hve here.
lots of cloth diaper giveaways

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